Ponchatoula Strawberry and Brown Butter Shortcake


Berries, Cake, Desserts, Southern / Wednesday, May 26th, 2010

Do you remember last spring’s Strawberry Shortcake with Cream Biscuits? The Alice Waters recipe? The one with the “spoonfuls of slightly sweetened strawberries and vanilla whipped cream spilling out of a just-cooled biscuit dusted with powdered sugar”?

Well, I thought I’d never try another strawberry shortcake recipe, ever. I thought I was ready to embrace strawberry shortcake monogamy. But then someone suggested that I try this Ponchatoula Strawberry and Brown Butter Shortcake from “DamGoodSweet,”a cookbook I’ve been carrying lust in my heart for for many, many months. Why? Because it’s a dangerous treasure trove of New Orleans-style desserts. We’re not just talking classics like beignets and Bananas Foster. Chef David Guas summons the beast. Double Chocolate Bread Pudding with Salted Caramel Sauce? Yes. Brandy Milk Punch Ice Cream? Absolutely. Is your appetite suddenly going berserk? See what I mean?

Baby.

So, how does his strawberry shortcake stack up?

Our strawberry season is just beginning, with the Nashville Farmers’ Market hosting a Strawberry Jubilee this Saturday, so I can testify that even sub-par berries work beautifully in Guas’ strawberry sauce. First, you stir together the berries, sugar and orange zest, and set the bowl over a pot of simmering water, so the berries break down slowly. Then you chill the sauce, and melt your butter for the brown butter shortcake over the same pot of simmering water. The cake comes together quickly, and when you pull it out of the oven, it’s tender and spongy, as golden as melted sunshine. All buttermilk and browned butter.

At first, I doubted Guas’ choice of cake over biscuits, but then I cut myself a slice and started spooning on the strawberries and sauce. And spooning. And spooning. I said the cake was spongy, and it can soak in an impressive amount of sauce. It also stays moist and tender for days, a trick that biscuits just can’t pull off. If you were having friends over, you could bake this cake several days in advance, and it’d be fresh as a daisy.

Of course, the cake doesn’t come in individual servings, but that leaves room for creativity. You can keep things simple and slice it into wedges. You can use a large biscuit-cutter to cut the cake into those familiar shortcake rounds. Or, if you’d like to take the cake uptown, you can split it in half horizontally, sandwich the halves with strawberries and whipped cream, and add more strawberries and whipped cream on top. The spectacle!

If Guas takes this much time and care on a simple strawberry shortcake recipe, I’m thinking his Café au Lait Creme Brulée has great promise. This book! I’m going to have to stop flirting with it and buy the thing, I can tell.

Ponchatoula Strawberry and Brown Butter Shortcake

Adapted from “DamGoodSweet,” by David Guas and Raquel Pelzel

Serves 8

  • 2 pounds strawberries (6 cups), hulled and quartered if large
  • Zest of 1 orange
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1 1/2 sticks plus 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
    Chantilly Cream: 

  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup confectioner’s sugar
  1. Bring a large pot with 1 inch of water to a simmer over medium-high heat. Stir the strawberries, orange zest, and 1/4 cup of the sugar in a large stainless steel mixing bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and place on top of the pot (the bottom of the bowl shouldn’t touch the water). Reduce the heat to medium-low, and let the strawberries macerate over the simmering water for 20 minutes. Remove the bowl from the pot, and refrigerate until chilled. (Note: The strawberry sauce can be made up to 1 day in advance.)
  2. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Place a 10-inch cake pan on parchment; trace and cut out a circle. Grease the pan’s bottom and sides with the tablespoon of butter, press the parchment into the pan, and flip the parchment over, buttered side up. Add 
2 tablespoons of flour and tap to coat the bottom and sides; discard the excess.
  3. Cut the remaining 11/2 sticks of butter into small pieces, and melt in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Simmer, whisking often to incorporate any solids that sink to the bottom, until the butter is a golden-amber color and smells nutty, 
4 to 6 minutes. Set the butter aside to cool.
  4. Bring the pot with water back to a simmer over medium-high heat. Whisk the eggs and remaining sugar together in a large heatproof bowl, and place over the pot of water (the bottom of the bowl should not touch the water). Reduce the heat to low and whisk the mixture until it has tripled in volume, 4 to 5 minutes.
  5. Transfer the mixture to the bowl of a stand mixer, and whip on high speed until it is thick, and pale, 2 to 3 minutes. Meanwhile, sift the remaining 1 cup of flour, the baking powder, and salt together. Reduce the speed of the mixer to low, and slowly drizzle in the warm butter (adding it too quickly will cause the batter to separate), using a rubber spatula to scrape the browned bits into the batter. Alternate adding the dry ingredients and the buttermilk, ending with the last third of the dry mixture, gently mixing until just combined.
  6. Transfer the batter to the prepared cake pan. Bake until the cake sides pull away from the pan and the center resists light pressure, 22 to 26 minutes. Remove from the oven, and let it rest for 10 minutes. Then run a paring knife around the edges of the pan, and invert the cake onto a wire rack to cool.
  7. For the Chantilly Cream: Pour the heavy cream into the bowl of a stand mixer, add the vanilla, and sift in the confectioner’s sugar. Whip on low speed to combine, and then increase the speed to medium-high. Whip until medium-stiff peaks form, about 1 1/2 minutes.
  8. Transfer the cake to a plate, and slice into wedges. Serve topped with strawberries, sauce, and a dollop of Chantilly Cream, or slice each wedge in half horizontally and sandwich the halves with strawberries and sauce, then top with cream.

17 thoughts on “Ponchatoula Strawberry and Brown Butter Shortcake

  1. Well, that sounds absolutely delightful!!! I just bought a flat of strawberries. Guess what I will be making this weekend?? Thanks for sharing!

  2. I can just imagine that the browned butter takes the shortcake to an entirely new level of deliciousness. This is a wonderful recipe.

  3. Whoa. The texture in this cake is absolutely perfect. What a great photo!! I'm bookmarking this recipe. Thanks for sharing.

  4. I mush prefer the cake version over the biscuit and brown butter? Yes, PULease! :)

    Btw, thanks for the heads up on that cookbook. I'll be checking it out.
    ~ingrid

  5. This is the first time that I have commented on your blog but I have enjoyed reading and making many of the recipes that you have featured. This recipe, however, has totally changed the way I will do Strawberry Shortcake forever. First of all, the brown butter shortcake is amazing.
    For my entire life (well as long as I've been cooking but my Mom's entire life) I have just mixed the cut up strawberries with the granulated sugar and put them in the fridge. Letting them macerate over the simmering water is genius. It gives them a jammy, full, yet still very fresh flavor. I will do my strawberries this way from now on. One of my favorite ways to eat leftover strawberries is in a nice big bowl of cornflakes. I know these are going to be out of this world tomorrow morning.

    I am definitely getting this book. Really, I don't need another cookbook but I don't see how I can go on without this one. Thanks for bringing this to our attention!

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